Need help in starting a raised bed veggie garden - Soil Mixture ?

scgirl816April 15, 2009


I am a complete newbie when it comes to gardening. I tried to search, but I was overwhelmed and not sure what to read for my simple question.

I have tons of packets of veggie seeds that I would like to plant this year, and I would like to do it in a raised bed so that I don't have to worry with trying to till the clay in my yard. I was wondering what the best, but most affordable, soil mixture would be for this. I bought a bunch of topsoil today, but then I read on the raised bed instructions that a mix might be better, but I can't seem to find anywhere that will tell me what to mix!

I just need to figure out a cheap and easy way to do this...if, in fact, there is one!

Thank you!


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trsinc(8 TX)

You're probably thinking of Mel's Mix. That's Mel Bartholomew - he wrote the book Square Foot Gardening.

For me, the cheapest way has been to buy 12 cubic yards of the best soil I could afford (that was 400.00 worth, yikes) and to that I added compost and cow manure. Some places sell really good soil with lots of compost and manure included. It has worked great, my vegetables have been productive, it hasn't packed down (I can still dig a hole with my hand or trowel).

Some day I'd like to add perlite or expanded shale for water retention, but I haven't yet.

There are lots of opinions out there about this.

What kind of top soil did you buy? Did it come in a bag?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 10:39AM
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I just bought cheap topsoil in a bag. I don't have a lot of money to spend on this. I'm not an avid gardener...just wanted to try my hand at it this year since I was given some seeds, but I don't want to dump hundreds of dollars into it. Especially when I may kill everything anyway! LOL See, I know you experts will laugh at me, but when I went to the store to buy dirt, I was going to get the organic Miracle Gro, but I put it back because it was $5 a bag, and I was going to need 18 or so bags, and that was even way more than I want to spend. I thought maybe I could just get the regular topsoil and then buy a box of the some organic plant food and add that in for a lot less than buying the $5 bags. But then I tried to find something online that would help me know if I should add peat moss (I have a bag in my garage), and that's where I got confused. :)


    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 2:05PM
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You could add the peat moss but I would also find either organic humus or bags of cow manure. Anything you add will help the soil and don't forget to mulch everything after it starts growning.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 5:53PM
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ishoot(z8 Red Oak, Tx)

Are you near a Living Earth Technologies site? They are in several Texas metro areas,
I've built some raised beds, and will be using their Specialty Planting Mix, full of compost with greensand and expanded shale as well. You can get lots of good soil and veggie garden info on the Dirt Doctor website too,

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 7:40PM
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uhohgardner(7b NE Tx)

We got a pickup load (about 1 cu yd) at a place in Sherman. There was a bedding soil mixture, and also mulch available. One was about 30 dollars for the load, the other I think was more like $65. It was a place where we had bought rocks for landscaping, north on 78. Probably many places like this in other towns near you.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 10:52AM
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Oh, I LOVE your picture! Thanks for the tips, everyone! I'm so excited to get started. did you build your beds? Just 2x6's nailed together? Also, what are the dimensions? I think we'll just do one bed this year, but if I am successful, I would love to have a place like yours. We have a big enough backyard to line one side with beds. That would be awesome!

Thanks everyone! It's raining today, but I think this weekend, I will go buy the rest of the stuff needed and get it started. Thanks for the websites too!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 10:54AM
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I use The Square Foot Gardener method and built a 4x4 bed above ground (2x10x8 were the wood dimensions). The soil mix the book recommends is expensive but pays off in the long run:
1 bale peat moss - 6 cubic feet
1 large bag of coarse vermiculite - 4 cubic feet
10 pails (2.5 gallon size) of sand
10 pails (2.5 gallon size) compost
1 coffee can full of lime
1 coffee can full of organic fertilizers

Good luck with your garden!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 11:37PM
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ishoot(z8 Red Oak, Tx)

SCgirl, I used untreated 2x12 lumber and heavy duty deck screws, and the bed dimensions are 4x8 feet. For each bed I took three eight foot pieces, and cut one in half to make the ends. Avoid the pressure treated lumber ( the CCA stands for copper, chromium, and arsenic). Cedar is best, just make sure you're sitting down when they tell you the can still get a few seasons out of plain untreated lumber and save some money.
The floor you see is landscape fabric, which will let moisture through but keep down the grass. I'll cover the pathways with cedar mulch. Inside the beds, I'll cut out the landscape fabric so I'll have a good soil interface for earthworms and beneficial microbes. Before the soil goes in I'll add a layer of cardboard just to make sure no grass/weeds have a chance to peek through.

Here is a link that might be useful: Raised bed material analysis

    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 11:27AM
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To save money on soil, I noticed that Lowe's has broken bags of organic compost,humas , manure,gardening soil and such.They cut the price by 50% so that does make it more affordable.Just as the garden folks to help you locate the bags and they will even put them in a clear plastic bag for you.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 1:22AM
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Sowth Efrikan

I'm busy with my first sfg/victory garden and found a mix from Bergers Horticultural in Hopkins county - it has everything mixed in it already, including vermiculite and peat moss, and is about $4 for 3 cubic feet.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 7:02PM
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